Learning from Israel’s Failures

10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, 10:2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 10:5 But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were cut down in the wilderness.

vv 1-13. ‘They had been highly favoured as well as we. They had been miraculously guided by the pillar of cloud; they had been led through the Red Sea; they had been fed with manna from heaven, and with water from the rock; and yet the great majority of them perished, vv1-5. This is a solemn warning to Christians not to give way to temptation, as the Israelites did, v6. That is, not to be led into idolatry, v7, nor into fornication, v8, not into tempting Christ, v9, nor into murmuring, v10. In all these points the experience of the Israelites was a warning to Christians; and therefore those who thought themselves secure should take heed lest they fall, vv11f. God is merciful, and would not suffer them to be too severely tempted, v13.’ (Charles Hodge)

Bear in mind that the overall theme of the present section concerns the propriety of eating food offered to idols. Continuing his rebuke of the Corinthian’s complacency, Paul turns from an illustration from athletics to an illustration from the history of Israel, showing that ‘the enjoyment of high privileges does not guarantee entry into final blessing.’ (Morris) Having spoken of the danger of forfeiting the prize, Paul sets forth the example of Israel as ‘Exhibit A’ (Fee) of those who failed to obtain the prize. The example is apposite in that God’s ancient people had a virtual baptism and Lord’s supper, yet still the vast majority of them perished because of a lack of self-control in relation to idolatry.

I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact – Paul seems to assume a knowledge of the OT accounts on the part of his (Gentile) readers. This, together, with his reference to ‘our forefather’ strongly indicates that we should view the OT as ‘our’ Scriptures, and the OT patriarchs as in a very real sense ‘our’ forefathers. But it also underscores the difference between a knowledge of OT facts (which Paul’s readers had) and an awareness of the significance of those facts (which they had not).

‘Would God permit those to perish for whom he had wrought so signal a deliverance, and for whose sake he sacrificed the hosts of Egypt? Yet their carcasses were strewed in the wilderness. It is not enough, therefore, to be recipients of extraordinary favours; it is not enough to begin well. It is only by constant self-denial and vigilance, that the promised reward can be obtained.’ (Charles Hodge)

Our forefathers – So called, even though the majority of those to whom Paul was writing would have been from a Gentile, not a Jewish, background. ‘The Jewish Church is related as parent to the Christian Church.’ (JFB)

‘By calling Israel “our fathers,” he emphasizes at the outset the Corinthians’ continuity with what God had done in the past. Since this is being written to a Gentile congregation, this language is sure evidence of the church’s familiarity with the OT as their book in a very special sense, and of Paul’s understanding of their eschatological existence in Christ (cf. v11) as being in true continuity with the past. God’s new people are the true Israel of God, who fulfil his promises made to the fathers. This identification is precisely what gives the warning that follows such potency.’ (Fee)

Tom Wright is another scholar who emphasises this idea that Christ and his people stand at the climax of the story that Israel has been enacting for centuries.  (See Kurt, Tom Wright for Everyone, ch. 3)

All – The word ‘all’ occurs 5 times in 4 verses. ‘The emphasis is on “all.” “All our fathers left Egypt; Caleb and Joshua entered the promised land.” All run, but one obtains the prize…The Israelites doubtless felt, as they stood on the other side of the Red Sea, that all danger was over, and that their entrance into the land of promise was secured. They had however a journey beset with dangers before them, and perished because they thought there was no need of exertion. So the Corinthians, when brought to the knowledge of the gospel, thought heaven secure. Paul reminds them that they had only entered on the way, and would certainly perish unless they exercised constant self-denial.’ (Charles Hodge)

‘The example of Israel proves that the possession of great religious privileges does not guarantee immunity from divine judgement.’ (Wilson)

The cloud – Ex 13:21,22; 14:19,24.  ‘The symbol of the divine presence and favour was before their eyes day and night. If any people ever had reason to think their salvation secure, it was those whom God thus wonderfully guided.’ (Hodge)

Baptised into Moses – ‘It is startling for the Christian, who is “baptised unto Christ,” to find such a reference to baptism. Probably we are to think of Moses as a type of Christ. Just as baptism has as one effect, the bringing of a man under the leadership of Christ, so did the participation in the great events of the Exodus bring the Israelites under the leadership of Moses Ex 14:31 can say, “they believed in the Lord, and in his servant Moses,” RV).’ (Leon Morris)

‘The cloud and the sea did for them, in reference to Moses, what baptism does for us in reference to Christ. Their passage through the sea, and their guidance by the cloud, was their baptism. It made them the disciples of Moses; placed them under obligation to recognise his divine commission and to submit to his authority.’ (Charles Hodge)

‘The Corinthians, it is true, have been “baptised,” but so were the Israelites; if the virtual baptism of the latter availed not to save them from the doom of lust, neither will the actual baptism of the former save them.’ (JFB)

‘”Baptism into” elsewhere in Paul is used of the believer’s incorporation into and union with Christ Rom 6:3 Gal 3:27 Paul finds a parallel to the Christian experience of baptism in Israel’s crossing the Red Sea, which becomes her “baptism” or means of corporate identification with Moses (“into Moses”) as leader of Israel.’ (DPL)

‘When Paul says that the Israelites were “baptized into Moses,” (1 Cor 10:2) he means that they were put under Moses’ control and direction. Thus, baptism into the name of the triune God signifies control and direction by God himself.’ (Concise Theology)

‘Paul’s use of baptismal language (in 1 Cor 10:1-12) speaks to a situation where the readers imagined that sacramental action carried its effective and operative power irrespective of moral choices. Paul insists, on the contrary, that the OT “sacraments” led to judgment on an idolatrous and immoral generation.’ (DPL)

‘Just as the Corinthians’ Christian life began with baptism, so “our fathers’” deliverance from Egypt began with a kind of “baptism;” but that, he will go on to say, did not keep them from falling into idolatry and thus falling short of the prize.’ (Fee)

‘Baptism means commitment. Just as the Israelites were committed to Moses through their crossing of the Red Sea, so Christians are committed to Christ through their baptism. It is no magic charm, has no social function: it signifies nothing less than lifelong commitment to Jesus.

Baptism means incorporation. Paul uses a very strange phrase in 1 Cor 10:2, which shows how the practice of Christian baptism has affected the Moses illustration. He says that the Israelites were “baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” This is obviously coloured by the Christian use of “baptise into Christ”..The New Testament’s favourite description of a Christian is someone who is “in Christ.” But it is equally insistent that nobody arrives there by accident, by birth, by religious observance or by doing lots of good things. We are by nature “having no hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12) But God has acted for us in the coming, the death and the resurrection of Jesus. Out sins can be forgiven because he has taken responsibility for them…Baptism is the sacrament of incorporation. It is the bridge by which we pass from being without Christ to being in Christ. You cannot live and rest in Christ until you have come into Christ. Baptism is the sacrament of that journey.

Baptism means death and resurrection. Figuratively, that is what happened tot he Israelites as they went through the walls of water on either side of them in the Red Sea. It was a death to all that lay in Egypt. It meant a complete break with the past, its doom and its bondage. It opened new vistas of hope for a Promised Land. It was no less than a death to the old life and a door into the new.’ (Green)

The reference to ‘spiritual food’ and ‘spiritual drink’ (v4) is very probably meant to parallel the Lord’s Supper.

Spiritual food – This was the manna. Paul is not denying the physical nature of this food, but is making the point that it was supernatural in origin.  Cf. Ps 78:24-25.

‘Spiritual gifts and spiritual blessings are gifts and blessings of which the Spirit is the author. Every thing which God does innature and in grace, he does by the Spirit. He garnished the heavens by the Spirit; and the Spirit renews the face of the earth. When therefore it is said, God gave them bread from heaven to eat, it means that the Spirit gave it; for God gave it through the Spirit.’ (Charles Hodge)

It is remarkable that Paul ‘chooses the manna and the rock, and not any of the Jewish sacrifices, as parallels to the Eucharist.’ (Robertson and Plummer)

The drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them – According to Barrett, ‘spiritual’ does not mean ‘allegorical’, but (quoting Schlatter) ‘that which comes from God and reveals him.’  Thiselton agrees: by calling the food and drink spiritual ‘Paul does not mean immaterial, but that which is provided by the Spirit of God (cf. 1 Cor 9:11; 12:1; 15:44, 46), with all the ‘hallmarks’ of what is regarded as a miraculous provision.’

A moveable rock?
Barrett comments that ‘the references to the well of water in Num 20:11; 21:16 seem to have led to the belief (within Judaism) that the well (provided by the rock) accompanied Israel on their journeys.’

But what are we to make of Paul’s apparent agreement with the strange idea that the rock ‘accompanied’ the Israelites?  Did he actually believe this odd extra-biblical legend?

Peter Enns (The Bible Tells Me So, p16f) tells of his experience of hearing a Jewish professor comment on the OT story of the Israelites receiving water from the same rock at the beginning and end of their 40-year wilderness period, but in two different locations – Rephidim and Kadesh.  The professor noted that some ancient Jewish interpreters understood this as meaning that the water-producing rock was actually travelling with them.  Then, says Enns, the professor asked his students to turn to the present passage, and to note that Paul seems to inherit the same very odd idea.  For Enns, this constituted an ‘Aha’ moment in altering his view of biblical inspiration.

But Paul is not so much affirming the legend about the provision of drinking water as affirming that Christ was present throughout the wilderness wanderings.  Garland agrees that ‘Paul may have incorporated a traditional Jewish interpretation of the following rock, but he gives it a uniquely Christian twist: “The rock was Christ.” He is not thinking of a material rock following them, or a movable well, but of the divine source of the water that journeyed with them.’

That rock was Christ – That is, Christ himself was the author of all their blessings, though they did not know it. In the OT, it was Jehovah who had been referred to as ‘The Rock’, Deut 32:15; Ps 18:2. The transferance of this title to Christ has clear implications for the divinity and pre-existence of Christ. Anyway, Paul’s point seems to be that both the Israelites were, and the Corinthians are, in danger of rejecting Christ himself because of their idolatry.

Fee and Stuart (How to read the Bible for all its worth) identify this as an example of an Old Testament text that seems to have been used with a different meaning in the New Testament.  They explain that Paul is drawing an analogy, by saying, in effect, ‘”That rock was to them as Christ is to us – a source of sustenance in the same way that spiritual things are a sustenance for us.”  Paul’s language in verses 2-4 is highly metaphorical.  He wants the Corinthians to understand that the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness can be understood as an allegory of their own experience with Christ, especially at the Lord’s Table.’

‘The spiritual homogeneity of the two covenants, and of the gifts accompanying them, rests on this identity of the Divine head of both. The practical consequence is obvious at a glance: Christ lived in the midst of the ancient people, and the people perished! How can you think yourselves, you Christians, secure from the same lot!’ (Godet)

The first four verses of this chapter form a single sentence in the original. The beginning of a new sentence pulls us up with a jolt.  After five positive examples, now come five negative examples.

God was not pleased with most of them – ‘This is a masterly understatement. Of all the hosts of Israel only two men – Caleb and Joshua – entered the Promised Land. The rest perished in the wilderness, or, as Paul puts it, they “were overthrown.” The verb “katastronnumi” lends a picturesque touch. It really means “to spread out.” Paul pictures the wilderness as strewn with corpses. This is not simply natural death. It is God’s sentence against the rebels.’ (Leon Morris)

‘Specific events in the wilderness wanderings were doubtless in Paul’s mind, and he especially recalled the golden calf (Ex 32), the hankering after the fleshpots of Egypt (Ex 17 etc.), the mass immorality with the daughters of the Moabites and the story of the bazen serpent.’ (Nu 25, 21) (Prior)

Their bodies were scattered over the desert – Cf. Nu 14:16. ‘What a spectacle is that which is called up by the apostle before the self-satisfied Corinthians: all those bodies, sated with miraculous food and drink, strewing the soil of the desert!’ (Godet)

Fee summarises Paul’s point here: ‘Just as God did not tolerate Israel’s idolatry, so he will not tolerate the Corinthians’. We deceive ourselves if we think he will tolerate ours.’

‘It is not enough, therefore, to be recipients of extraordinary favors; it is not enough to begin well. It is only by constant self-denial and vigilance, that the promised reward can be obtained.’ (Hodge)

At the site of Dachau concentration camp near Munich, Germany, is a museum containing relics from the camp, as well as grim photos depicting conditions there during the war years. There is a sign next to the exit that reads: “Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat its mistakes.” The same idea was in Paul’s mind in this passage. The mistakes the Israelites made were cited by the apostle to serve as a reminder and warning, much as the sign at Dachau was.’ (Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, 426)

10:6 These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did. 10:7 So do not be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 10:8 And let us not be immoral, as some of them were, and twenty-three thousand died in a single day. 10:9 And let us not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by snakes. 10:10 And do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel.

These things occurred as examples – See also v11.  ‘These judgements are not recorded in Scripture as matters of antiquarian interest which have no bearing on the contemporary scene in swinging first-century Corinth. On the contrary, they are beacons set to warn “us” (everyone, including the apostle himself) not to follow Israel’s example in lusting after evil things, Num 11:4.

‘Although “character studies” can be abused by squeezing too much doctrine out of minor actions and incidental details, one of the important purposes of all of the stories of the Bible is to illustrate desirable and undesirable behavior.’ (Blomberg)

Do not be idolaters – The reference is to the golden calf incident. Paul quotes from the second part of Ex 32:6 which speaks of eating and drinking and pagan revelry; the first part of the verse refers to the associated idolatry. The judgement in this case was the slaying of three thousand by the Levites and then a plague. For the Corinthians, the specific form of idolatry was attendance at the pagan meals in the idol temples.

As it is written – Graham Goldsworthy suggests that, contrary to what is sometimes suggested, the NT writers were not in the habit of quoting the OT out of context. He points out that in citing part of Ex 32:6 here, Paul intends to bring to mind the whole narrative of Israel’s idolatry and the golden calf. (Gospel and Kingdom, 18f)

Pagan revelry – Both in Exodus and here it is likely that some kind of sexual orgy is being hinted at. If so, this leads naturally into v8.

Sexual immorality is mentioned here, because it formed a major part of much idolatry. Corinth had been notorious for cult prostitution. Paul has in mind the incident recorded in Nu 25:1-9. Sexual immorality is mentioned in 1 Cor 5:1-5,10-11; 6:9-10,12-20.

In one day twenty-three thousand of them died – The reference is to Num 25:9 which, however, puts the number as twenty-four thousand. Charles Hodge has an interesting comment on this apparent discrepancy:- ‘ In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint, by Philo, Josephus and the Rabbis, the number is given as twenty-four thousand. Both statements are equally correct. Nothing depended on the precise number. Any number between the two amounts may, according to common usage, be stated roundly as either the one or the other. The infallibility of the sacred writers consists in their saying precisely what the Spirit of God designed they should say; and the Spirit designed that they should speak after the manner of men – and call the heavens solid and the earth flat, and use round numbers, without intending to be mathematically exact in common speech. The Bible, although perfectly divine, because the product of the Spirit of God, is perfectly human. The sacred writers spoke and wrote precisely as other men in their circumstances would have spoken and written, and yet under such an influence as to make every thing they said correspond infallibly with the mind of the Spirit. When the hand of a master touches the organ we have one sound, and when he touches the harp we have another. So when the Spirit of God inspired Isaiah we had one strain, and when he inspired Amos, another. Moses and Paul were accustomed, like most other men, to use round numbers; and they used them when under the influence of inspiration just as they used other familiar forms of statement. Neither intended to speak with numerical exactness, which the occasion did not require. What a wonderful book is the Bible, written at intervals during a period of fifteen hundred years, when such apparitions of inaccuracy as this must be seized upon to impeach its infallibility!’

We should not test the Lord – That the original read ‘Christ’ rather than ‘the Lord’ is regarded by Fee as being ‘almost certain’. Anyway, the idea is of putting God to the test, of seeing how far one can go, of seeing what one can get away with. Paul has in mind the people’s testing of the Lord by complaining about food, Nu 21:5-6. This episode is apparently referred to in Ps 78:18.

Such grumbling is recorded in Num 14:2,36; 16:11,41. It was punished on each occasion.

10:11 These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come.

Us, on who the ends of the ages has come – Meaning, ‘that the culmination of all past ages has arrived. They are completed, and the lessons they teach are manifest. We should reap the fruits of the experience of these ages.’ (Morris)

‘The New Testament dispensation winds up all former “ages.” No new dispensation shall appear till Christ comes as Judge. The “ends” (plural) include various successive periods consummated and merging together (Eph 1:10; cf. Heb 9:26). Our dispensation being the consummation of all that went before, our responsibilities are the greater, and the greater our guilt, if we fall short of our privileges.’ (JFB)

10:12 So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall.

If you think you are standing firm – It is likely that the Corinthians were over-confident of their standing because of a superstitious belief in the efficacy of the sacraments.

‘The Corinthians were cocksure of their position. But then, so had the Israelites been, and they had reaped nothing but disaster. Let the self-confident take heed, lest he fall.’ (Morris)

‘In view of the foregoing example the Corinthians must nt presume that the mere possession of the privileges and gifts of the gospel can secure them against the possibility of falling from grace under all circumstances; that they at present do entertain such an illusory assurance is proved by their dangerously careless walk.’ (Wilson)

‘There is perpetual danger of falling. No degree of progress we may have already made, no amount of privileges which we may have enjoyed, can justify the want of caution. Let him that thinketh he standeth, that is, let him who thinks himself secure. This may refer either to security of salvation, or against the power of temptation. The two are very different, and rest generally on different grounds. False security of salvation commonly rests on the ground of our belonging to a privileged body (the church), or to a privileged class (the elect). Both are equally fallacious. Neither the members of the church nor the elect can be saved unless they persevere in holiness; and they cannot persevere in holiness without continual watchfulness and effort. False security as to our power to resist temptation rests on an overweening self-confidence in our own strength. None are so liable to fall as they who, thinking themselves strong, heedlessly run into temptation. This probably is the kind of false security against which the apostle warns the Corinthians, as he exhorts them immediately after to avoid temptation.’ (Hodge)

On May 14th, 1855, the young C.H. Spurgeon began a sermon on this verse as follows:- ‘It is a singular fact, but nevertheless most certain, that vices are the counterfeits of virtues. Whenever God sends from the mint of heaven a precious coin of genuine metal, Satan will imitate the impress, and utter a vile production of no value. God gives love; it is his nature and his essence. Satan also fashioneth a thing which he calls love, but it is lust. God bestows courage; and it is a good thing to be able to look ones fellow in the face, fearless of all men in doing our duty. Satan inspires fool-hardiness, styles it courage, and bids the man rush to the cannons mouth for reputation. God creates in man holy fear. Satan gives him unbelief, and we often mistake the one for the other. So with the best of virtues, the saving grace of faith, when it comes to its perfection it ripens into confidence, and there is nothing so comfortable and so desirable to the Christian, as the full assurance of faith. Hence, we find Satan, when he sees this good coin, at once takes the metal of the bottomless pit, imitates the heavenly image and superscription of assurance, and palms upon us the vice of presumption.’

Privileges and gifts do not secure us from falling

‘In view of the foregoing examples the Corinthians must not presume that the more possession of the privileges and gifts of the gospel can secure them against the possibility of falling from grace under all circumstances; that they at present do entertain such illusory assurance is proved by their dangerously careless walk.’ (Wilson)

10:13 No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Take God into your counsel: heaven overlooks hell. God at any time can tell you what plots are hatching there against you.

Gurnall

Temptation – probably used here in its wider sense of ‘testing’, or ‘trial’. The Corinthians had experienced nothing that was exceptional. ‘Elijah, that could shut heaven by prayer, could not shut his heart from temptation. 1 Kings 19:4. Job was tempted to curse God, Peter to deny Christ; and hardly ever any saint has got to heaven but has met with a lion by the way. Nay, Jesus Christ himself, though free from sin, yet was not free from temptation. We read of his baptism; then he was ‘led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.’ Mt 4:1. No sooner was Christ out of the water of baptism, but he was in the fire of temptation; and if the devil would set upon Christ, no wonder if he set upon us. There was no sin in Christ, no powder for the devil’s fire. Temptation to him was like a burr on a crystal glass, which glides off; or like a spark of fire on a marble pillar, which will not stick: and yet Satan was bold to tempt him. It is some comfort that such as have been our betters have wrestled with temptations.’ (Thomas Watson)

Common to man – not excepting God-who-became man. ‘One son God hath without sin, but none without sorrow.’ (John Trapp)

God is faithful – ‘Here, as in 1 Cor 1:9, and every where else in Scripture, the security of believers is referred neither to the strength of the principle of grace infused into them by regeneration, nor to their own firmness, but to the fidelity of God. He has promised that those given to the Son as his inheritance, should never perish. They are kept, therefore, by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation, 1 Pet 1:4. This promise of security, however, is a promise of security from sin, and therefore those who fall into willful and habitual sin are not the subjects of the promise. Should they fall, it is after a severe struggle, and they are soon renewed again unto repentance. The absolute security of believers, and the necessity of constant watchfulness, are perfectly consistent. Those whom God has promised to save, he has promised to render watchful.’ (Hodge)

He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear – ‘He knows our frame. Ps 103:14. He knows we are not steel or marble, therefore will deal gently, he will not over-afflict. As the physician, who knows the temper of the body, will not give physic too strong for the body, nor give one drachm or scruple too much, so God, who has not only the title, but the bowels of a father, will not lay too heavy burdens on his children, lest their spirits fail before him. He will correct in measure, for duration; he will not let the affliction lie too long. ‘The rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous,’ Ps 125:3. It may be there, but not rest. ‘I will not contend for ever.’ Isa 57:16. Our heavenly Father will love for ever, but he will not contend for ever. The torments of the damned are for ever. ‘The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.’ Rev 14:11. The wicked shall drink a sea of wrath, but God’s children only taste of the cup of affliction, and their heavenly Father will say, transeat calix, ‘let this cup pass away from them.’ Isa 35:10.’ (Thomas Watson)

‘He will not try us beyond our strength; either he will make the yoke lighter, or our faith stronger.’ (Thomas Watson)

‘No pharmacist ever weighed out medicine with half as much care and exactness as God weighs out every trial he dispenses. Not a milligram too much does he ever permit to be put on us.’ (Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, 388)

He will also provide a way out – ‘The imagery is that of any army trapped in the mountains, which escapes from an impossible situation through a pass. The assurance of this verse is a permanent comfort and source of strength to believers. Our trust is in the faithfulness of God.’ (Morris) ‘The word is vivid (ekbasis). It means a way out of a defile, a mountain pass. The idea is of an army apparently surrounded and then suddenly seeing an escape route to safety. No man need fall to any temptation, for with the temptation there is the way out, and the way out is not the way of surrender nor of retreat, but the way of conquest in the power of the grace of God.’ (DSB) Cf. Ps 50:15; 2 Cor 10:13.

The same God who permits the testing, also provides a way out.

‘Affliction has a sting, but withal a wing: sorrow shall fly away.’ (Thomas Watson)

Let us be like a bird for a moment perched
On a frail branch when he sings;
Though he feels it bend, yet he sings his song,
Knowing that he has wings.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

‘In a culture filled with moral depravity and pressures, Paul gave strong encouragement to the Corinthians about temptation. He said: (1) wrong desires and temptations happen to everyone, so don’t feel you’ve been singled out; (2) others have resisted temptation, and so can you; (3) any temptation can be resisted because God will help you resist it. God helps you resist temptation by helping you (1) recognize those people and situations that give you trouble, (2) run from anything you know is wrong, (3) choose to do only what is right, (4) pray for God’s help, and (5) seek friends who love God and can offer help when you are tempted. Running from a tempting situation is your first step to victory’ (see 2 Tim 2:22). (Life Application)

Avoid Idol Feasts

10:14 So then, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

Flee from idolatry – ‘They are not to stand and fight idolatry with their superior knowledge; their only safety is in flight.’ (Wilson) ‘They must not try how near they can go, but how far they can fly.’

10:15 I am speaking to thoughtful people. Consider what I say. 10:16 Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 10:17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all share the one bread.

Participation – Gk. koinonia.  Often translated ‘communion’.  ‘Like many other words in this area, the word for ‘communion’ requires to be demystified. It comes from the Greek word for ‘common’ and means ‘having things in common’ or simply ‘sharing’. At the Communion the Christians shared the bread, they shared the cup and they shared Christ. They had them in common.’  (MacLeod, A Faith to Live By)

Compared with the diaconal and eldership ministries, the NT has relatively little to say about the sacramental nature of the Christian ministry. Paul clearly regarded the administration of baptism as a subordinate duty, which he was willing to delegate to assistants, 1 Cor 1:17. Similarly, the Lord’s Supper is regarded as a corporate activity, 1 Cor 10:16-17; 11:25. It is reasonable to suppose, however, that presidency would have been provided by an apostle, prophet, or evangelist (if present), or by one of the local elders.

10:18 Look at the people of Israel. Are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? 10:19 Am I saying that idols or food sacrificed to them amount to anything? 10:20 No, I mean that what the pagans sacrifice is to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot take part in the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 10:22 Or are we trying to provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we really stronger than he is?

The people of Israel – Lit. ‘Israel according to the flesh’.  As Wright observes, ”Paul is [t]here expounding the Exodus-narrative, in order to apply it to the Jew-plus-gentile ekklēsia in Corinth to whom he has said that ‘our fathers’ were under the cloud and passed through the sea. In teaching the ekklēsia to think of itself as the people who tell this story as their own and learn to live within it, Paul’s reference to Israel kata sarka is revealing. Had he wished to reserve the word ‘Israel’ to mean ‘Jews and Jews only’, he would hardly have needed to add the qualifying phrase. This then coheres with the tripartite division of the human race in 10:32: Jews, Greeks, and the ekklēsia tou theou, the church of God. Clearly Paul has not settled on a single designation for the Messiah-people. But, equally clearly, he constantly refers to that people in ways which indicate what his explicit argument in Romans 2–4, in 2 Corinthians 3, in Galatians as a whole and in Philippians 3 all make clear: that in Israel’s Messiah, Jesus, the One God has fulfilled the ancient Israelite hope, expressed by Torah, Prophets and Psalms alike, by bringing the nations of the earth to belong to Abraham’s people. Paul is acutely aware of the many painful paradoxes that go with this belief, but he will not draw back from it.’ (Paul and the faithfulness of God)

Live to Glorify God

10:23 “Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds others up. 10:24 Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person. 10:25 Eat anything that is sold in the marketplace without questions of conscience, 10:26 for the earth and its abundance are the Lord’s. 10:27 If an unbeliever invites you to dinner and you want to go, eat whatever is served without asking questions of conscience. 10:28 But if someone says to you, “This is from a sacrifice,” do not eat, because of the one who told you and because of conscience– 10:29 I do not mean yours but the other person’s. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 10:30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I blamed for the food that I give thanks for? 10:31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 10:32 Do not give offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, 10:33 just as I also try to please everyone in all things. I do not seek my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.

v24 Cf. Php 2:4 n

v26 Ps 24:1.

‘Evidence for the practice of a meal in the temple is found in the following well-known Oxyrhynchus papyrus which Lietzmann regards as ‘a striking parallel’ to the reference in 1 Cor 10:27: ‘Chaeremon invites you to dinner at the table of the lord Serapis (the name of the deity) in the Serapeum tomorrow the 15th at the 9th hour’ (= 3 p.m.) (quoted and discussed in Chan-Hie Kim’s essay, ‘The Papyrus Invitation’, JBL 94, 1975, pp. 391-402). An invitation to a meal of this character, whether in the temple or in a private house, would be commonplace in the social life of the city of Corinth, and would pose a thorny question for the believer who was so invited.’ (NBD)

‘The situation envisaged by these verses is a Christian’s acceptance of an invitation to a meal in a private house (10:27). In such a circumstance the believer is free to eat the food set before him, making no inquiries as to its ‘past history’, i.e. where it comes from or whether it has been dedicated in an idol shrine. If, however, a pagan, at the meal, draws attention to the food and says, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice’ – using the pagan term hierothyton – then the food must be refused, not because it is ‘infected’ or unfit for consumption, but because it ‘places the eater in a false position, and confuses the conscience of others’ (Robertson-Plummer, I Corinthians, p. 219), notably his heathen neighbour (10:29).’ (NBD)

A servant girl, who was once asked how she knew she was a converted Christian, replied, “Well, you see, I used to sweep the dust under the mat, but now I don’t.” It is possible to visit somebody else as if Jesus Christ lived there, to type a letter as if Jesus Christ were going to read it, to serve a customer as if Jesus Christ had come shopping that day, and to nurse a patient as if Jesus Christ were in that hospital bed. It is possible to cook a meal as if we were Martha in the kitchen, and Jesus Christ were going to eat it.’

Stott, Authentic Christianity, 251

Do it all for the glory of God – Cf. 1 Pet 4:11.

Glorify God in all things

‘The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions…We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in our natural and in our civil actions. In our natural actions; in eating and drinking. 1 Cor 10:31. ‘Whether therefore ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.’ A gracious person holds the golden bridle of temperance; he takes his meat as a medicine to heal the decays of nature, that he may be the fitter, by the strength he receives, for the service of God; he makes his food, not fuel for lust, but help to duty. In buying and selling, we do all to the glory of God. The wicked live upon unjust gain, by falsifying the balances, as in Ho 12:7. ‘The balances of deceit are in his hands;’ and thus while men make their weights lighter, they make their sins heavier, when by exacting more than the commodity is worth, they do not for fourscore write down fifty, but for fifty four-score; when they exact double the price that a thing is worth. We buy and sell to the glory of God, when we observe that golden maxim, ‘To do to others as we would have them do to us;’ so that when we sell our commodities, we do not sell our consciences also. Acts 24:16. ‘Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards men.’ We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in all our civil and natural actions, and do nothing that may reflect any blemish on religion.’ (Thomas Watson)

v33 cf. Php 2:4

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